This is documented if you do a search for something like wordpress themes hidden links: If you get free themes by just simply searching for the term free wordpress themes, you might get a surprise when you download themes from a website other than the WordPress Theme Directory.
The surprise may be pleasant or unpleasant, depending on whether or not you mind ads in your blog linking to websites that have nothing to do with your blog’s content. Now, I am not referring to the theme author’s well deserved link to his or her website. I’m referring to links to paid sponsors. Some of these themes encrypt the code in the footer, making it difficult to remove the links. Others claim that you will “break” the theme if you remove the sponsored links (if you know HTML, I promise you that you won’t). If you have downloaded one of these themes and it has a license that allows you to remove footer links and you really want to keep it, check out the Theme Authenticity Checker plugin.
Of course, one surefire place to get free non-sponsored themes is the WordPress Free Themes Directory, but if you want more of a selection than what is offered there or could not find what you were looking for, I would suggest weblogtoolscollection.com’s New WordPress Themes forum. This is really a place where independent theme designers can submit their latest themes. I used this forum for all three of my recent themes.
So far as sponsored themes go, WeblogToolsCollection, like WordPress’s Theme Directory, doesn’t accept them. While the quality of the themes you may get here is up to the author, it is certain they will be sponsored link and encrypted code free. I think this is a good source not only to promote a theme that you designed, but also a good place to look for new themes. The forum releases new themes each week. I think they even advertise in WordPress’s Admin dashboard.
To get to this forum, click News from weblogtoolscollection.com’s home page.